Guymer Bailey Interiors

Biophilic Design in Prisons

By Rachel Hur

Scenario

Imagine that you are in a cubicle located in the middle of the office floor plate. Your office has a glazed front, but you are looking into another open office. You have no real window or view to the outside, so you can't tell if it's raining outside or sunny. If you are lucky, and you do have a window, it's fixed, and you are looking into an office in the neighbouring building that is five metres away.

The fluorescent lighting that you sit under for eight hours has thrown out your body's natural circadian rhythm. The ventilation is alright, but you start to feel droopy at around 3pm because the carbon dioxide levels in your shoebox have risen. It might even feel a bit stuffy, regardless of the door being open or closed. As you don't have an operable window, you have been breathing in recycled air all day. When you get outside and take a breath, you will instantly notice that the air outside is fresh.

Now multiply that by five days a week, 48 weeks a year. Maybe you will get a pot plant in a few weeks.

The Biophilia Hypothesis

Exposure to the natural world is essential for human wellbeing because humans have an innate connection with the natural world (Gills).

It sounds obvious, doesn't it? But how often do we rely on the natural world to recharge and reconnect? We live in a world full of distractions and in a culture that prioritises efficiency, quick change and instant gratification. Is it any wonder that the rates of anxiety and depression are increasing, and our knowledge and awareness of mental health issues and mindfulness are growing to combat this?

We need the natural environment now more than ever. To look beyond the concrete jungle that has become our normal life, and find moments to breathe, destress and recover. Nature has been there all along, patiently waiting for us to stop, take a breath and recharge.

What does this have to do with design and architecture, you might ask?

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.  Photography by Scott Burrows Photography.

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve. Photography by Scott Burrows Photography.

Biophilic Design – what is it?

Biophilic design philosophy encourages the use of natural systems and processes in design to allow for exposure to nature. Exposure to nature has been found to have positive responses on human psychology and physiology in contribution to improved health and wellbeing (Gills, Soderlund).

It is the integration of the biophilia hypothesis into design. Biophilic design has been further incorporated into environmental psychology theories of Attention Restoration Theory and Stress Recovery Theory. Both theories suggest that there are stressful and non-stressful environments and that non-stressful environments can actively help people recover from stress and fatigue (Gills).

These theories are supported by studies that have found that exposure to nature reduces heart rate variability and pulse rates, decreases blood pressure, lowers cortisol and increases parasympathetic nervous system activity, while lowering sympathetic nervous system activity (Soderlund).

Biophilia is not merely about providing trees and greenery, but consists of different natural layers, which can be divided into direct experience of nature (light, air, weather), indirect experience of nature (natural materials, evoking nature) and the experience of space and place (prospect and refuge, organised complexity).

What do we do with it?

As we specialise in correctional facilities here at Guymer Bailey, we strive to create humane environments that allow for rehabilitation. One of the key ways we do this is using biophilic design.

Let's face it; prisons are known to be "not nice". When we look at the statistics, 44.8% of prisoners released during 2014 – 2015 returned to prison within two years across Australia.

With a design focus on rehabilitation and not punishment, part of this rehabilitation is creating therapeutic spaces and calm environments where people can feel safe and secure. A lot of our decisions in the design process are around biophilic design such as providing access to natural light and fresh air, views to the landscape and use of colour and materials.

Enhancing living quality doesn't have to be complicated or expensive, it just comes down to prioritising and efficient design, and in the case of our secure facilities, the balance with security requirements.

Rivergum Residential Treatment Centre, a project completed almost a year ago in the Grampians Region, is an example of successful biophilic design implementation with views out beyond the perimeter fence to the mountains, natural light in every room for both residents and staff, and either operable windows or natural ventilation units in every room across the site. Timber has also been used internally and externally, and we retained as many existing trees as possible to keep that connection to nature. So far, we have received positive staff feedback about the therapeutic design of the facility and the benefits of being able to open all the office windows.

Rivergum Residential Treatment Centre.  Photography by Scott Burrows Photography.

Rivergum Residential Treatment Centre. Photography by Scott Burrows Photography.

What can you do with it?

Biophilic design can reduce stress, improve cognitive performance and positively impact emotions and mood. What's more, it can be implemented in all typologies, including residential, education, commercial, health, and as you have seen corrections. We've even started to implement it in our own studios.

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Our Brisbane studio has many operable windows, granted Brisbane has much better weather than Melbourne! In Melbourne, we are restricted from major modifications because we're on the fifth floor of a building but have a row of potted peace lilies to help filter the air. We have also recently replaced a fixed window with operable louvres, and even though it's only one, we've already started feeling the difference in the air (and no, it's not just the cold air of winter!). The CO2 levels are lower on that side of the studio as well.

It's not the easiest thing to change in a building already built, but biophilic design is something that we can design into new projects. Hospitals are seeing the benefits of biophilia for patients and have started building in courtyards and windows. Prisons are doing it; schools are doing it. When will you start doing it?

References

Gillis, K., Gatersleben, B. "A Review of Psychological Literature on Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Biophilic Design"

Soderlund, J., Newman, P. "Improving Mental Health in Prisons Through Biophilic Design"

About the Author

Rachel Hur specialises correctional architecture with a strong focus on rehabilitation and creating therapeutic spaces. This, combined with her passion for sustainability and biophilic design in prisons, makes her a valued member of the Guymer Bailey corrections team. Rachel was the Project Lead on the Rivergum Residential Treatment Centre, which was recently shortlisted in the 2019 Victorian Architecture Awards Sustainability Category.

Brisbane Celebrates 30 years of Guymer Bailey!

You saw how Melbourne celebrated 30 years of Guymer Bailey, now let's see how our Brisbane Studio marked this important milestone.

The Brisbane event was held at Bougainvillea House at Howard Smith Wharves where we enjoyed fantastic views of the city and the Story Bridge as we mingled with more than 120 of our valued clients, consultants and business associates.

Our large GBA #30 sign lit the way in green and guests were welcomed with drinks, delicious canapés and music from Guymer Bailey's own Steve Fisher as part of the Steve and Andre Duo.

The live Sushi Chef kept us fed and entertained throughout the evening with his culinary skills that have been passed down through multiple generations. We were also fortunate to have the artistically talented Pat Giles from our Melbourne studio, who did remarkable caricatures of guests.

Our MC, Gerrard Gosens, shared his inspiring story as a blind Paralympic runner and adventurer and introduced Directors, Phil Jackson and Kavan Applegate, who honoured our founders Tim Guymer and Ralph Bailey in their speech. Phil and Kavan also spoke about their experiences as directors over the last thirteen years and the exciting recent developments that include the launch of Guymer Bailey Interiors and Guymer Bailey Landscape in Melbourne.

Here is a quote of Phil's speech at the event.

"The practice has always been born from a connection between architecture and the place in which it sits, and Tim and Ralph instilled this sense of design responsibility into every project, which we continue on today. Thank you to you both for your knowledge, dedication, and humour. We'd also like to thank Paul who retired as director a year ago, for his contribution to the practice also.

We are so passionate about design that makes a difference in people's lives - sustainable designs that help to rehabilitate and to educate. And with so much of our work being around rehabilitative secure facilities, we are conscious that prevention is always better than a cure. Now more than ever, we are confident in our path forward together with you all as a practice, with a firm belief in the ability of design to provide a positive influence in all our lives."

From all of us here at Guymer Bailey we would like to thank you for your ongoing support, whether you are:

  • A client we love working with

  • A contractor that brings our designs to life

  • A specialist consultant that works through the intricacies with us

  • A hard-working member of our amazing team

  • A partner, family member or friend that supports us on this journey

We've included a gallery of photos from the night below, but also check out our Facebook page for more photos, please feel free to tag yourself!

Interior Designer Q&A – Elizabeth Burger

Having to create beautiful and unique interiors day in and day out, we couldn’t help but wonder, where do Interior Designers find their inspiration? We sat down with Guymer Bailey’s Interior Designer, Elizabeth Burger, from our Melbourne studio to find out this and more.

First things first, tell us a bit about yourself…

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I’m a recent transplant to Melbourne, having spent the last two years in Perth and most of the years before that in my hometown, New Orleans, Louisiana. I love old buildings, live music, and good food. My most recent design experience was in heritage renovations, but before that, I had experience in corrections, healthcare, and airport redesign.

What do you love most about being an interior designer?

I love having the opportunity to shape the spaces people spend time in. I think a lot of people overlook the psychological effect that interior spaces can have on those who use them. I also really enjoy collaborating with other designers and architects during the creative process.

Who or what inspires your design? Do you have any influences?

I’m inspired by historic architecture, specifically the scale, proportion, and rhythm of historic buildings which I try to apply even to new construction.

Walk us through your design process, how do you create an interior clients love?

I like to start by brainstorming really out there ideas and then reigning myself in from there. I also think it’s important to remind myself that an interior a client loves doesn’t have to be something I love (but it’s always more fun if it is!).

What has been your favourite project to design?

I worked on the renovation/restoration of an 1890’s Gothic Rectory building that had previously had a major renovation in the 1960’s. Peeling back the layers to figure out what was original, along with adapting the space for modern use, was such a fun challenge. The space was also full of amazing antiques and items that had all been abandoned, so I got a few souvenirs too!

What would be your dream design project?

My dream design project would be a major project that combined historic architecture and new construction. Designing a new building that both complements a historic building and also stands alone as a great piece of architecture is something that very few people achieve. Finding that balance in interiors is also difficult, but it’s a challenge that I love.

What is your top interior design tip?

Don’t overthink it. The simplest idea is often the best.

Interior Designer Q&A - Gohta Shiraishi

While you can be forgiven for thinking that interior design is all about aesthetics, the truth is a lot more goes into the planning and designing of an interior. To get a behind the scenes glimpse we sat down with Guymer Bailey’s Senior Interior Designer Gohta Shiraishi from our Melbourne studio to ask him about his design process.

First things first, tell us a bit about yourself...

I’ve always enjoyed being creative, and as a kid, I wanted to be an artist or an inventor. Being naturally inquisitive, I like to connect the dots.

I studied Industrial Design, and upon graduating, I went to work for a small Interior Design firm (Cube Architects) designing bespoke furniture and joinery. Over the years I picked up the Interiors trade and worked on many workplace, education and retail projects before I came to lead the retail design projects at my first firm.

Since then, I’ve worked at a large Australasian scale firm (Warren and Mahoney) for a few years where I further honed my skills, mostly in the retail and education sectors, and now I’m a proud member of Guymer Bailey Interiors.

What do you love most about being an interior designer?

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I would say creating a curated and engaging experience in the built environment through good design. All disciplines in our industry have their vital roles to play from the consultant engineers, project managers and of course we can’t forget about the architects! But the role of the Interior Designer is to create the interface between the built environment and human experience.

The whole process of design is thoroughly enjoyable from space planning and user traffic flow strategies and adjacencies, to developing the concept behind the look and feel of a space. It is a gratifying challenge to achieve an aspirational outcome while resolving technical issues and bringing it all together to deliver a project.

Who or what inspires your design? Do you have any influences?

Paul Priestman of Priestman Goode was a strong influence in my early career. His firm is a major player in the spatial design, Aviation and Transport design and industrial design sectors in the UK and one of their standout projects at the time was the redesign of Virgin Airlines Business Class seating.

They developed the clamshell partition system, which is now quite commonplace, but was a revolution in Aviation interiors at the time. What I loved about this design was that it wasn’t only an aesthetically driven outcome. It improved the user experience by improving privacy and also gives the occupant seated behind a fixed wall in which their tray table and TV are mounted too. This makes for a much more pleasing experience for passengers.

I can remember thinking, “Wow, there’s so much more to design than just looks”. Improving user experience through good design that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional is a key driver of my work.

Walk us through your design process, how do you create an interior clients love?

As a designer, it’s essential to respond to the needs of the client by understanding what it is they want to achieve with their space. This ultimately comes down to how they want the users to use the space. A big part of how users engage with a space is how they feel and react to an environment. With the client’s objective in mind, I’ll try and picture myself in the users' shoes and tailor the environment to facilitate a specific reaction from the users.

For example, I have a significant background in the retail banking sector and in those settings customers need to be served in a reassuringly professional environment. A high-quality fitout gives off an air of security and stability but how far you go with this needs to be balanced with the expectations of the clients target demographic.

With the users’ needs and expectations in mind, my initial high-level space planning will focus on the users “journey” through the space. Using the retail banking example again, key initial touch points need to be strategically placed to point the users in the right direction and help them move on to their next touchpoint which will usually be transaction or consultation based. Strategic use of wayfinding and locating concierge staff in the right areas is key to ensuring a smooth and trouble free user experience.

Using another example from another one of my sector backgrounds, workplace projects need to allow a business to operate as effectively and efficiently as possible. So I will consider the needs of the key stakeholders and user groups and design spaces around their requirements. Agile workers need a mix of collaborative spaces when working with their colleagues but will also require more private working areas when focusing on process-oriented tasks. High-level executives often need to have confidential discussions, so adjacency to private and acoustically secure meeting or quiet rooms is crucial.

Once I have established the functional requirements of the space and have an overall floorplan, the next piece of the puzzle is to put together the overall theme and look and feel intent. For commercial retail projects this will often be tied to a brand image, and so the fitout will need to read harmoniously with the branding material in colour, form, texture and overall design language.

For hospitality projects, the space needs to be inviting, relaxing and entertaining at the same time. Much like the cuisine that may be on offer the “ingredients” need to be balanced carefully to be appealing to the palate. Workplace projects need a careful balance of engaging and stimulating settings that are not too distracting, as they need to be conducive to good work and productivity

In summary, make the space work well, and users will have a positive experience. Make the space look great too, and they’ll have a fantastic experience!

What has been your favourite project to design?

My involvement in Tauranga Crossing Shopping Centre has been a key highlight of my career so far, though I’ve found every project has its positives, even the difficult ones as they offer the most beneficial learning experiences.

What would be your dream design project?

I think it’s every designer's dream to have an unlimited project budget haha! But in all seriousness, I would say something that gives back to the community and enriches people's lives. A project that genuinely makes the world a better place would be truly amazing to be a part of.

What is your top interior design tip?

We live in a truly rich and diverse world. Regardless of personal tastes, I believe everything has its place in some way, in some form and somewhere. As a designer, it’s my job to make sure the right things go in the right place and often at the right time. A simple way of looking at it is to meet the project brief.

Interior Designer Q&A – Severina Galvin

With our internal environment playing such a crucial role in our happiness, productivity and wellbeing we sat down with Guymer Bailey’s Senior Interior Designer Severina Galvin from our Brisbane studio to ask her what really goes into creating interiors people love to live, work and learn in.

First things first, tell us a bit about yourself...

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My interest in the design field began with visual arts exploring painting, printmaking and sculpture initially and then evolving into installation art. Interior design then became the next logical step for me as I was more interested in exploring a person’s interpretation of their environment and how they come to assign meaning to their experience of it.

I graduated from Queensland University of Technology in 2000 with a Bachelor of Built Environment (Interior Design) and Graduate Diploma in Interior Design. I then worked in interiors for a variety of Interior Design and Architectural firms and also Government both in Brisbane and Sydney on projects big and small, which eventually led me to my current passion for sustainable design.

What do you love most about being an interior designer?

Interior design is a collaborative process of a series of ideas, constructs and decisions about function, aspirations, culture, cost, time and carbon among others that have a very tangible built environment outcome. I thoroughly enjoy seeing how this unfolds in its unique way on every project like a puzzle or a maze.

Who or what inspires your design? Do you have any influences?

Influences and inspiration that affect my thinking come from a mix of sources that are mostly sustainability, popular culture and technology based.

Some of these include the ReNew and Sanctuary magazines, Dezeen online, Indesign magazine, Australian Institute of Architects’ EDG newsletter, GBCA publications, newsletters and events, Design Institute of Australia’s Artichoke magazine and Spark newsletter, CSIRO’s publications, blogs and newsletter, Meetup environment and sustainability group’s events, and a host of sustainability vlogs.

Walk us through your design process, how do you create an interior clients love?

My design process begins with getting to know the client, their brief and the project background so that I can understand the main drivers for the project and what really matters to both the client and end users of the interior.

Next, I explore the specific sustainable design possibilities and challenges that can be influenced. A project-specific strategy of ideas then emerges to align the values and drivers of the project with its functional requirements and the desired sustainability outcome. The rest is negotiation and teamwork.

What has been your most favourite project to design?

Rather than having one favourite project, I tend to enjoy bits and pieces from various projects, such as:

  • Incorporating beautiful daylight and sky views in a fitout with no windows through the use of solatubes

  • Achieving just the right “quiet in the zone’ feel at the work pods in a co-shared workspace space

  • The way reflected sunlight shines and sparkles off the mirror splashback tiles in a breakout space

  • Achieving just the right feel of quiet and ‘in the zone’ sense at the work pods in a co-shared workspace space together with the sparkly mirror splashback tiles

  • Reading that violence is down, and staff-inmate relations have improved in a prison project I worked on; and

  • Getting away with specifying only ESD certified wall cladding for a large townhouse development

To name only a few!

What would be your dream design project?

Anything where sustainable outcomes are valued, and we don’t have to demolish what is there to build it new again.

What is your top interior design tip?

Reuse, recycle and reduce of course!